It's October, and I should be in Maine, peeping at the autumn leaves, drinking a Gritty's and munching on some lobstah. Well, we didn't make it up there this year, and here in Texas, the leaves are still green, there's no East Coast IPA to be had, but at least I can get my lobster fix.
Of all the different ways there are to gussy up a lobster in your kitchen, other than simply boiled, this has to be my favorite. Lobster bisque is at once an elegant dish that often graces tables of the white cloth and real silverware variety, but it is also a dish that conjures up the sea--fishermen in those ubiquitous yellow rain jackets, lobster traps stacked high on faded wooden docks, aging boats rocking gently in a grey, misty harbor.
I first tried this dish not in Maine, however, but in Texas, at the little B&B the wife and I stayed in on our wedding night. The flavor of the bisque was unreal. Savory and succulent and downright sassy, and lobster-y as all get out.
The lobster bisque at the Sanford House B&B--pure heaven!
I pressed 'em for the recipe, but they weren't budging. So I was on my own again. Well, gentle readers, I have to say this one took a while. Over of year of trial and errors, and lots of mediocre bisque (much to my wife's chagrin) later, I finally hit upon a recipe that approached the Sanford House's goodness. Definitely not the same, but still very, very good. And, it's also rather simple. Making bisque the authentic way can be daunting. Hours of boiling lobster shells to get the right flavor. I cheat a little with some store-bought stocks, but that's okay, because all I'm really after here is the great flavor, and in my attempts with the lobster shells, things never really panned out.
Anyhoo, if you're up for some bisque, give this one a try.
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 Medium Onion, Diced
3 Carrots, Diced
3 Stalks Celery, Diced
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Cup White Wine
1 Can Campbell's Consommé
1/2 Teaspoon Thyme
3 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Cup Lobster Stock
2-3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 Teaspoon Better Than Bullion Lobster Base
1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 Teaspoon White Pepper
1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
Meat from 1 Lobster, Boiled
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
2 Oz Water
Everyone should have a dedicated lobster pot, no?
When the lobster is done (about 12-14 minutes for a 1 1/4 pounder) you can set him aside in the fridge until you need him.
Now, melt the butter in a good sized pot.
Next, dice your onion,
and add them all to the pot with the melted butter. Sauté these until the onions start to clear and turn golden. Then add the crushed garlic
and let that got a minute or two.
Add the white wine and stir and scrape and browned bits off the bottom of the pot.
Add the consommé.
Add the chicken stock,
Next up, this.
Yes, canned lobster stock. Normally this would generate a supercilious eyebrow raise on my face, but in this case, with this particular brand, this is good stuff, and one of my two 'secret ingredients' to make this bisque sing. Make sure you get the Bar Harbor brand lobster stock, or else it's back to boiling those shells.
Add the lobster stock.
Add the Thyme
Then add the tomato paste
Hey, don't you hate it when you only need two tablespoons of tomato paste and have to open a whole can? I do too. That's why I love these tubes of tomato paste. You can use only what you need and seal them back up. Plus, it's very high quality, flavorful tomato paste. All the better.
Stir everything up and then cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. After this time, get your stick blender and pureé everything up.
Next you need a chinois. I know, not something everyone has hanging around, but in my opinion, every aspiring chef should have one. They're fun.
Pour the soup from the pot into a large bowl, then place the chinois in the pot and pour the liquid into it.
Use the included pestle and mash all the liquid through the mesh sieve. Discard the solids when you're done.
Next up, secret ingredient number two: Lobster base:
I'm a big fan of the Better Than Bullion Company. I've used their beef base for years in my chili and my cowboy beans. So much better than those little dry bullion cubes. When I discovered they made a lobster base, I had to try it. I have to say it really wowed me. It was rich, thick and full of lobster flavor. A concentrated lobster paste, if you will.
I had to mail order this stuff--you might have to as well. You can read more about it here, and get it here.
Add a teaspoon of it to your bisque at this point, but no more.
This stuff is very salty and it can cause your bisque to become over salted if you use too much. You can add more at the end if you think you need it. Add the onion powder, garlic powder and white pepper at this time as well.
Let things simmer for a few minutes and then taste the bisque. It should be beginning to taste great, even though we're not quite done yet.
Add your heavy cream and stir.
Let simmer for a few minutes more.
While that's going on, go get your lobster from the fridge.
Separate the tail and claws.
Crack 'em and remove the meat. Set it aside--we'll chop it up in a minute. But first, we're gonna get a little more meat from the lobster. From where, you ask? Well, from those little legs running down each side.
While it's not a lot of meat, it is some great tasting meat, but it's usually the devil to try to get it out. But I learned this cool little trick from Alton Brown on the Cooking Channel, so I had to show you here.
Take a rolling pin and roll it over those little legs one at a time, starting at the pincer and going toward the open end.
The meat will squirt right out!
Repeat with the other legs and combine this meat with the tail and claw meat.
Chop this up coarsely.
Add it to the pot.
Stick blend again to get everything nice and velvety.
Mix the cornstarch with the water and add it to the bisque. Stir until it thickens.
Taste and make any adjustments as necessary.
Serve immediately. Preferably with some nice crusty bread. If you boiled additional lobsters, you can add chunks of lobster meat to the bisque, or just serve it as a side for a whole lobster, as we've done here.
Until next time,